True sustainability can only be achieved when recognizing that we are all part of a complex, interconnected system.
SSMC acknowledges that our three key pillars, the “3 E’s” of sustainability, are the Economy, social Equity and our Environment, and that they are strongly interdependent. All three of these critical pieces must stay in balance to allow Earth to continue to provide a vibrant, healthy home for us and future generations.
One of the most popular definitions that still holds up today is the one used in the Brundtland Report. This report, also known as “Our Common Future,” was published in 1987 by the United Nations and defines sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The report was named in recognition of former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. In her role as chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development, she anchored environmental issues to the political agenda. “Our Common Future” paved the way for the convening of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the adoption of Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan of action to be enacted globally, nationally and locally by organizations and governments in every area in which people impact the environment.
Some of the most important principles of sustainability include resilience and systems thinking. Resilience is broadly defined as the capacity of a system to prepare for threats, absorb disturbances, “bounce back” quickly and adapt following persistent stress or a disruptive event. Systems thinking means realizing that we are all part of a bigger, complex web of interactions. Inside this bigger web, each individual component holds important key functions and roles and can greatly influence other components, whether directly or indirectly. If even only one of these individual components fails, the cascading effects on the entire system might be disastrous.
One example to illustrate this concept is bees and their importance as key pollinators in ensuring a stable food system. Many factors including pesticides, the impacts of climate change and a resurgence in pathogens, have contributed to massively decimate our bee populations – a concerning fact when realizing how essential they are in crop pollination. Bees, particularly honeybees, are responsible for pollinating more than a third of our food supply and 90 percent of wild plants.
Systems thinking, because it promotes a holistic approach, is the ideal problem-solving framework for sustainability. With people putting more and more pressure on natural resources and ecosystems, it is becoming harder for systems to stay resilient and stable. We are now facing the increasingly harsh consequences of our unsustainable behavior, from sea level rise to an extended wildfire season and more extreme weather.
The time to act is now. Simply put, we can no longer afford to pay lip service to sustainability. Sustainability is now a necessity. SSMC has been working to promote actions and policies fostering sustainability since 1992 and will continue its important work in this arena.